Zwift Academy Baseline Ride FAQ

Zwift Academy Baseline Ride FAQ

Based on the response to yesterday’s post about my Zwift Academy (ZA) Baseline Ride experience, lots of Zwifters are asking similar questions about how these rides work.

So here’s a list of Baseline Ride frequently asked questions, with (hopefully) helpful answers.

What is the purpose of Zwift Academy Baseline Rides?

These events were created to measure how you perform within the three different energy systems:

  • Sprint (tested over a short segment)
  • Anaerobic (tested over a medium-length segment)
  • Aerobic (tested over a longer segment)

By the end of Zwift Academy, you’ll have completed a Finish Line ride as well. You should then be able to determine what type of cyclist you are based on what energy system you excel in.

How do the rides work?

The rides function like any other Zwift group ride – everyone starts from the pens, then rides the prescribed route at their own pace. The category you select at signup determines which of two routes you ride. Each route has three target segments which you want to hit at maximum effort in order to measure how you perform in the three energy systems.

There are three things that set Baseline (and Finish Line) rides apart from a typical group ride:

  1. Drafting is turned off. This is done so your segment timings aren’t affected by drafting other riders.
  2. The entire goal of the ride is to hit the three segments at maximum effort. In between those segments you should be riding at a very easy pace and recovering, so you’re as fresh as possible for the next segment.
  3. Your three segment times are saved and viewable in the Companion app to track progress.

What routes do the Baseline Rides use?

If you choose the Advanced Baseline Ride (category A for men, B for women) you will ride Watopia’s new Climber’s Gambit route.

If you choose the Standard Baseline Ride (category C for men, D for women) you will ride Watopia’s new Legends and Lava route.

Should I sign up for the Advanced ride, or the Standard one?

The big difference between the two is the length of the segment used for the final aerobic effort. The Advanced Ride climbs the Epic KOM Reverse, while the Standard Ride climbs the Volcano KOM.

Most riders will finish the Volcano KOM in 8-14 minutes. The Epic KOM takes approximately three times longer to complete.

If you are a pro contract contender, you are required to complete the Advanced Baseline Ride. Additionally, if you are a very experienced/fit rider, the Advanced ride may provide a better test of aerobic endurance than the shorter Standard ride.

Just remember: whatever option you choose for the Baseline Ride, will need to be chosen again for the Finish Line Ride so you can track your progress!

I want to sign up for a Baseline Ride but it says my category is X w/kg, and that’s too high for me. Should I still sign up?

Zwift’s ZA web portal has a bug which is showing w/kg ranges for each of the categories for Baseline Rides. Ignore those. Baseline Rides have no target w/kg. Just choose your category based on the criteria above (Advanced or Standard) and ride at your pace.

Ignore those w/kg numbers!

Where do the timed segments start/end?

Experienced Zwifters may know the maps well enough to know where the segments begin. But what about the rest of us?

If you are riding the Advanced Baseline ride, you will arrive at the segments at this point during the ride (click segment name for Strava segment details):

If you are riding the Standard Baseline ride, you will arrive at the segments at this point during the ride (click segment name for Strava segment details):

How do I know where a segment starts or ends?

Along with noting the starting distances above, it’s also helpful to recognize the visual indicators used to show that a segment is beginning.

Here’s what segment start and finish lines look like:

Does the ride end at an arch? How do I know when I’m done?

The ride will continue just a bit after the finish arch of the final segment. Just spin those pedals and catch your breath – you’ll see the finish line soon enough! It looks like this:

Which bike should I use? Is there an assigned bike?

There is no assigned bike or wheels for these events. Since you want to be able to compare your segment times between your Baseline Ride (at the start of ZA) and Finish Line Ride (at the end of ZA), you should simply plan to use the same bike frame and wheelset for both events.

Doing this means your times won’t be impacted by the virtual equipment you use, since different wheelsets and frames can be more or less aero and weigh more or less than others.

How can I tell what my strengths or weaknesses are based on my Baseline Ride results?

Strengths and weaknesses (we like to call them “opportunities for improvement”) cannot be determined by Baseline Rides alone. Zwift will be sharing a blog post, probably near the end of ZA, which will go into greater detail about what to do next based on your Baseline + Finish Line results.

If you can’t wait until then, or just love digging into your data, there are third-party apps available to give you more insight into your performance numbers and even rank you against others. The Breakaway app we recently reviewed just received a Zwift integration update and gives you fancy charts ranking you based on power numbers. ZwiftPower also profiles your power to help you understand your strengths and weaknesses.

Is this a race?

No. The entire goal is to put in your best effort over the three segments. Recover at whatever pace you’d like in between those segments, so you can put everything you’ve got into the timed sections.

Is Late Join turned on?

No. Most group rides on Zwift have Late Join enabled so you can join the group up to 30 minutes late. But if you did that on a Baseline Ride, you may join the group after they’ve already completed a segment or two! So you have to show up on time to make it work.

Should I do the Baseline Ride in ERG mode?

No. These aren’t workouts – they’re free rides.

I can do better. Can I do my Baseline Ride over again?

Absolutely! Just sign up for another one and give it a go! They’re scheduled through September 27.

Is drafting turned on for Baseline Rides?

No. Drafting is turned off so you have consistent environmental factors for both the Baseline and Finish Line rides in order to get more accurate results.

Do I need to stay with the group? What if I get dropped?

There’s no need at all to stay with the group. In fact, with drafting turned off, saying bunched up is next to impossible! Just ride at your pace.

Where can I see the results of my Baseline Ride?

In the Zwift Companion app (available for iOS or Android). Just click the Zwift Academy Road section near the center of the home screen:

Does the Baseline Ride function as an FTP test, or do I need to do one of those first?

The Baseline Rides does not function as an FTP test. If you’ve never done an FTP test, we recommend doing one so your FTP is accurately set before you jump into a ZA Workout, since the power levels of the workouts are based on your FTP.

The quickest/easiest way to do an FTP test is to take a ramp test.

How does the Baseline Ride impact the rest of my ZA Workouts?

Short answer: it doesn’t. The goal of Baseline Rides is to gauge your current fitness level at the start of ZA so you have a comparison point for your Finish Line ride at the end of ZA.

Watch me complete a Baseline Ride

Curious what the actual ride experience is like? Here’s a full video of me completing the Standard Baseline Ride:

Still got questions?

Feel free to share them below. We highly recommend checking out the very thorough ZA Road FAQ forum post from Zwift, since it appears to address nearly all questions related to ZA Road 2021.

About The Author

Eric Schlange

Eric runs Zwift Insider in his spare time when he isn't on the bike or managing various business interests. He lives in Northern California with his beautiful wife, two kids and dog. Follow on Strava

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
46 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Ana Bedoya
Ana Bedoya
15 days ago

Yesterday I did the baseline ride completely and the results in Zwift companion don’t show the long segment. I don’t understand why.

David Barndollar
David Barndollar (@barnwani)
15 days ago
Reply to  Ana Bedoya

Lots of server problems: many people (myself included) are not seeing all or some of their segments for their baseline rides from yesterday (I’m missing the medium segment).

Chris
Chris
15 days ago
Reply to  Ana Bedoya

I didn’t get given a sprint time on the standard baseline ride.

Dr Robert C Lewis
Dr Robert C Lewis
15 days ago

The baseline ride is a mess, no clear instructions as to what was expected,how you were meant to ride it. Unless you dug deep into the q&a. Unless you know watopia it isn’t clear when segments start. Who knew there were orientation rides? Endless comments in the chat about lack of info. Everyone is going to perform better just because they know what they are meant to be doing, How difficult would it have been to give clear instructions, maps, elevation and but banners at start and finish. Might have been useful then.

John C
John C
15 days ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

The instructions within the Zwift companion app have been enhanced over the last couple days to include additional information and much of the information you included in your article here. Much of this was missing a couple days ago when I first attempted the ride. Good news is Zwift is listening to the feedback and those that ride the baseline going forward will benefit from the better guidance.

Trek Madone
Trek Madone (@jeroends)
14 days ago
Reply to  John C

when I rode the baseline ride 2 days ago, I understood the overall goal from the Zwift description, but that doesnt help. You need to know where the segments start. Especially the first one as you want to be on topspeed at the start of the sprint segment. Was so frustrating that I completely missed the section, but I wasnt the only one. THe other sections I also didnt know where they started exactly but at least you can catch up during the segment…

Paul
Paul
10 days ago

Glad I wasnt the only 1!

Sandra Randell
15 days ago

I found this very hard going and now shattered!!! I think I may be able to do this after the academy has finished. Too may hills for the start. Can only get better 🙏

David Perks
David Perks
15 days ago

Thanks for the post… as always very helpful and clear. My question isn’t about the baseline ride but rather the results. The Zwift website says “Insights available on the companion app”. All I see are my times, not an analysis based on my age/weight etc. nor any kind of comparison like “Your anaerobic system is better than your endurance system… You need to work on your endurance” or whatever. Am I just expecting too much?

Alan Richardson
Alan Richardson
15 days ago
Reply to  David Perks

I’m with you. The ride was fine,the instructions and a quick read of the route on ZI and I was ready, but the results are no better than I already had from Strava. Hopefully after the Finish ride all will become clear…maybe.

Sherman Olsen
Sherman Olsen
15 days ago
Reply to  David Perks

The comparison information for average, best, and age groups is on Today’s Plan, which through Zwift is being offered for free for the duration of the Academy. Zwift certainly did not make clear that signing up for Today’s Plan is basically required to get the data context they have touted. I still haven’t seen an analysis of the energy systems in terms of rider profile, but there is a lot of data on the site so maybe it’s already there somewhere.

Sherman Olsen
Sherman Olsen
15 days ago
Reply to  Sherman Olsen

I see now there is an “Ability Graph” on Today’s Plan, for peak power, sprint, lactate tolerance, etc. for rider type.

Chris
Chris
15 days ago

Does anybody know whether it OS possible t9 Do both baseline rides, the standard and the advanced at the beginning of ZA? Will then the results of both rides be visible in companion App?

Brian
Brian
15 days ago

The instructions on the event page were clear and Eric/ZI did a great job summarizing the routes in advance. I think the failure here is on Zwift not providing anything in-game – other workouts have instructions at key points, motivation, tips, etc. They could have knocked the experience out of the park and wow’d us… instead it felt like any other open ride. They’ve had months to prepare for this…

David
David
15 days ago
Reply to  Brian

Yes! This… In game notes would have been awesome. Especially hints for when the segment started and progress while riding it. On a positive note, I really liked the Legends and Lava route!

Rob Lewis
Rob Lewis
15 days ago
Reply to  Brian

Agree Eric/ZI did a great job, but only discovered this after having done the ride, wish I had seen it before. I did everything through companion app and really wasn’t clear. Thought it was just me but all the comments were the same. It just felt like any open ride as you say. I’m very used to riding structured workouts. No one on my ride seemed to follow any structure, neither did anyone on my wifes ride! shouldn’t have taken going to other websites to find out good details of the ride. As you say they had months to prepare… Read more »

Brian
Brian
15 days ago
Reply to  Rob Lewis

It was a fun route/ride and I knew the routes from prior riding experience in Watopia but clearly others did not. Eric Min has referenced reducing “barriers to entry” for new users – imagine if this was one of your first experiences with the game. How about some focus groups of riders prior to launching an event, series or update (for example, 10 riders of out 10 would have asked why there was no remaining mileage/km listed on the new route completion status bar). I think the product would be improved at very little cost to Zwift. Ride on!

Nick
Nick
15 days ago

Thanks for this. With your distance cues for when the segments start and having watched your video I can finally recognise the actual segment starts on screen. When I did my ride I totally missed the lines on the road and the stanchions as I was paying attention only to the segment leader board pop up and trying to infer some meaning or clue from its content. The leader board does appear before the start of the segment but is there any rule to how long before that would make it helpful for getting prepared?

Steve
Steve
15 days ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

There are also purple “500m to go” markers just before the segments start (least there were in the Advanced one I did today)

Steve
Steve
15 days ago
Reply to  Steve

welp, just watched your playback. There’s only one for the sprint point that’s clearly not 500m away from the start

Sherman Olsen
Sherman Olsen
15 days ago
Reply to  Steve

The 500m markers are from the end of the segment, and so appears before the sprint segment even starts but well after the “medium” segment has begun. Not that is intuitive at all the first time.

Rob Lewis
Rob Lewis
15 days ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

Eric, I think that’s the fundamental problem, you had to know the route to know when to “hit the watts”. This means second time around anyone who didn’t know the route will do better at the end just by the fact of now having prior knowledge of route. It null and voids the effect of the academy and knowing whether it was a useful training regime. Enjoyed your vid and wish I’d watched it first.

Todd Tannenbaum
Todd Tannenbaum
15 days ago

Thank you so much for this article. Answers all my questions. Very well done sir!!!

Joe
Joe
15 days ago

Can anyone confirm that the bike you choose makes any difference? I’ve done the race on both a tron and tt bike, and I noticed that I wasn’t passing folks while going down hill, even when doing the same w/kg as them and my time up epic was nearly identical using the same power but with the two different bikes.

Ive ridden roughly 15K miles on zwift so I have a pretty good sense of the expect behavior and the TT bike just felt off to me.

Dan Sheremeto
Dan Sheremeto
14 days ago

I thought it was strange that they enabled power-ups, as those could distort comparisons to the Finish Line ride – especially the Aero helmet on the sprint or the Feather on the short climb. I burned mine on the long recoveries to avoid a bad comparison, but I bet a lot of people used theirs in the timed segments, which will make their comparisons worthless

Dave
Dave
14 days ago

thanks for all the info, I did the baseline ride tonight and to say I was confused was an understatement. Your visuals and explanations are awesome!

Erik
Erik
14 days ago

Just a small comment on the effort/performance that is “measured”. It seems that Zwift is considering the time you spend on the segment (not the raw effort you put in) as the baseline. Therefore starting the segments at high speed is important.
Its also worth pacing the segments optimally with regards to the incline. This is perhaps most important on the long segments. Steady watts is not the best pacing strategy, spend more watts on high gradients, less on lower.

Roque Matagulay
Roque Matagulay
14 days ago

Hello, could you put a link as to the best way to plan your program? I’ve done the baseline ride, and now need to do one of the workouts. What strategies should I be doing in between these? I try to ride everyday so how should I do my in between rides? How many days should I be waiting between workouts? How many days a week? Should I be doing 3-4 workouts a week? or just once a week? I guess I cannot find a training plan in all of the links to all of the information that lays out… Read more »

Dan
Dan
14 days ago

I’m actually a bit confused about calling the long segment “aerobic”. Doing any segment at maximum intensity triggers the anaerobic systems I would think, especially on a longer ride? At least in my case, my heart rate was above my aerobic threshold for most of the volcano KOM.

Dan
Dan
14 days ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

Ahhhhhh ok that actually makes sense because my power level was just over/under my FTP for most of the climb. Appreciate your response Eric!

Mike Tighe
Mike Tighe (@mbdtighe)
13 days ago

Isn’t it all about the watts for each segment rather than the time, so is bike and wheel choice relevant? The intention of the academy training is to increase your W/kg, like all training blocks. Was chatting to a friend of mine about this. Of course if your W/kg increases your time will decrease.

Mike Tighe
Mike Tighe (@mbdtighe)
12 days ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

Yes, it is sorta about time too of course, increased W/kg = faster times. I see what you mean though about the importance of bike selection as I did the baseline ride yesterday and only the times come up. However I did see a kick up in my FTP at xert and intervals.icu following it. It would have been great to have that show up in Zwift, but at least there are other tools that do the job.

Josh Kincaid
12 days ago

Should weight fluctuations be accounted for during ZA, should I update that in my Zwift profile or focus only on the power differences?

Brian
Brian
7 days ago

I did the advanced portion (accidently signed up for that one and didn’t figure it out until mid-ride) of the baseline ride in ZA. No issues. Today I went to do the standard version of the baseline ride and started in the pen with everyone else. When the time started, however, I wasn’t able to ride. Why?

Mark A Posey
Mark A Posey
1 day ago

I did not know to do the baseline ride first and have already done 3 of the 6 rides. Will that matter? I realize if affects my before and after information but will it affect my being able to complete the ZA 2021 program?

Sunny Lee
Sunny Lee
7 minutes ago

Hi Eric, Had read all the instructions but still screwed up twice on the Baseline Ride. Can you share with me how long km for each of the 1st,2nd and 3rd segments. Without knowing that I’m not sure how to pace my efforts without blowing the pistons early on. And the instructions say there are laser markers on the Segment Start, the 3rd one I was looking for it but failed to notice it and therefore missed it entirely. Is it possible for the marker to apppear on the opposite side of the road. Zwift really let me down on… Read more »

Free Zwift Trial

Newsletter Subscription

46
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x